All you need to know about the 2019 World Men's Curling Championship
(Header image © WCF / Jeffrey Au)
All the big names are there!
Lethbridge, Canada, welcomes the world's best male curlers this week as it hosts the 2019 World Men's Curling Championship — the 61st edition of the tournament, in its 60th anniversary year.
Hosts Canada, represented by Team Kevin Koe, are looking for their 37th men's title. The three PyeongChang 2018 medallists — Team John Shuster (USA), Team Niklas Edin (Sweden), and Team Peter de Cruz (Switzerland) — are all also present.
"The Worlds is different than it used to be. Every team is tough, even some of the teams people aren't familiar with. We' re going to have to play well but I think we're up to the challenge", Koe said.
It is the first time the city in Alberta will host the men's flagship event, although it has previously held both the 2012 World Women's and 2017 World Mixed Doubles championships.
Once more, 13 teams are participating in the tournament after its expansion in 2018. For the first time, two teams —South Korea and Netherlands — qualified through a World Qualification Event.
The event begins on Saturday, 30 March, and the medal matches will be held on Sunday, 7 April.
Battle of the champions
Reigning world champions Team Edin are unchanged from the team that won Olympic silver in PyeongChang. Team Edin beat Canada's Brad Gushue in the final last year for their third world title, and are aiming for their country's ninth title overall in Lethbridge.
But Edin is just one of six skips taking part in Alberta to have led their team to gold in major elite championships.
In addition to Shuster, who beat Edin in the epic Olympic final in PyeongChang, Koe is a two-time world champion skip. Japan's Yuta Matsumura and South Korea's Kim Soohyuk have both led their rinks to Pacific-Asia titles, while Scotland's Bruce Mouat is the current European champion, having defeated Edin in the 2018 final.
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There's still plenty of experience elsewhere in the field, even within teams without major elite championship wins to their name.
China are led by Zou Qiang, who played lead on the 2014 Pacific-Asia champion rink, while de Cruz of Switzerland and Italy's Joel Retornaz are both European medallists and have appeared at the Olympic Games.
Netherlands, Germany, and Russia are all being represented by skips with previous World Championship appearances.
There is only one team making a debut this year: Norway are being represented by Winter Universiade champion Magnus Ramsfjell.
Ramsfjell beat 2014 world champions and 2010 Olympic silver medallists Team Thomas Ulsrud in the Norwegian national championship final to secure his spot in Lethbridge.
It remains to be seen whether Ramsfjell will continue Ulsrud's tradition of wearing colourful trousers, however.
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It is the second year the World Men's Curling Championship will use the six-team playoff format following the round-robin stage.
The current system replaced the old Page playoff method in 2018, and sees the top two teams receive a bye to the semi-finals while the next four teams play qualification games, which involve the third-placed and sixth-placed teams face each other in one matchup, while the teams in fourth and fifth play the other game.
Both qualification games, as well as the two semi-finals, will be played on Saturday, 6 April.
The medals will be decided the day after, with the gold medal game scheduled to start at 5 pm local time on 7 April.
Selected games from the 2019 World Men's Curling Championship will be available on the Olympic Channel (U.S. only).